‘Should I call Tusla about our new neighbour? She seems to be verbally abusing her son’

Tell Me About It: Look out for the child doing normal things but report if you’re worried

PROBLEM: I live in a nice, quiet neighbourhood with lovely, helpful, friendly neighbours. Recently, a new family moved into a house nearby and they appear to have no regard for anyone around them. Music is played at loud volume – I can hear it even with all my windows closed and I live four houses away.

The mother in the house shouts all day long out the back garden and appears to be verbally abusing a boy of 10 or 11 years old. She shouts so loud that I can hear the interaction word for word and it is definitely not how you should speak to a young person. I feel so sorry for the child and have considered reporting to Tusla. I have thought of trying to talk to them but am fearful of the reaction.

Have you any advice please.

ADVICE: This is a question of ethical or civic duty versus being a busybody and getting embroiled in a neighbourhood dispute. It is only in relatively recent times that we might feel obligated to intervene in a family situation and of course the question arises of if, when and how we should carry out this intervention. The motivation to report to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) is where concern for the safety and wellbeing of children outweigh any fears you might have in approaching the family, but shouting does not necessarily indicate abuse (some families shout as a matter of course) so perhaps some further investigation is needed before proceeding.

It might be worth checking with other neighbours if they have spoken to or wish to speak to the family about the noise level

The first issue you raise is that this new family have little regard for the neighbours. You say they play music very loudly and that this indicates very different social expectations to that of the current neighbours. This issue presents an opportunity to engage with and get to know these new people. They may not know how loud others find their sound levels and it would seem fair to start with a friendly conversation. You are fearful of the reaction you may get, perhaps being shouted at, but as a first step to intervention, it is fair that they are spoken to before things are taken any further so that they have a chance to adjust their behaviour. It might be worth checking with other neighbours if they have spoken to or wish to speak to the family about the noise level.